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Zanzibar – Part 38

November 23, 2016

Zanzibar – Part 38

by Keith Channing

The Arikatoteshika’s booming voice shook the ground on which the group was standing; it was as though a seismic event had taken place. More than shaking the ground, though, it shook those present to their very souls. He continued:

“Ever since I called the self-styled Motorhead Gang into my realms, the natural order of things has been affected – and that not positively.”

“So, are you trying to blame it on us?” Wildcat/Billy/Bleugh asked.

“Yeah, and if so, (a) why did you bring us here in the first place?” Rodney asked, “And two, why not just gather us back together and send us home? You know that’s what we want.”

“Is it?” the Arikatoteshika asked, his voice softer, less strident and more conciliatory; almost condescending, “Is that really what you want, Rodney? Your friend Chadwick gives every impression of enjoying his status in the Smoke, particularly now his soul-mate, Tracey, is there with him. William holds a position of influence in the Settlement that I believe he would be loathe to leave behind. And can you seriously tell me that you would willingly relinquish the authority and respect you currently enjoy in the Village, just to return to the homes, the parents and siblings that you were so keen to escape from?”

Rodney stood to his full height and replied, “Listen. I can’t expect you to understand—”

“What?” the Arikatoteshika boomed, causing another localised seismic disturbance, “You can’t expect me, the Arikatoteshika, the caretaker and provider, the ruler of these domains, to understand the workings of your puny minds; your tiny, irrelevant emotions? As far as you are concerned, young human, I am all-powerful. Nothing is beyond my ability to control, nothing is outside my comprehension.”

Hemi/Chadwick jumped to his friend’s defence. “If I remember rightly, whatever-your-name-is, you brought us here because, and forgive me if I don’t get your words exactly right, ‘Something is going badly wrong. Something I cannot fix alone.’ Does that sound all-powerful to you? Cause it doesn’t to me, so up yours!”

“I demand respect from you, subject!”

“Then,” the disembodied voice of Ruth said softly, barely above a whisper, “with all possible respect, oh great one, perhaps you should earn it.”

“You, too, Ruth? Even you have turned against me?”

“No-one has turned against you. You brought us here to help you with a problem that is, by your own admission, too great, too complex or both, for you to solve without our help. A wise man once said: if you want someone to help you, your first job is to make them want to help you. You are not making us want to help you.”

“What are you suggesting?”

“Are you familiar with the concept of humility?”

“Let’s say I am.”

“Okay, so you’re not, but we’ll say you are. That’s something to work with.”

“What would you have me do?”

“You can start by revealing your true form.”

“What you see is my true form.”

“Wrong. What we see is what you want us to see. Were I to ask everyone here what they see, each would describe a different appearance. The second thing I want you to do is to stop hiding behind this, this title of yours, and speak your true name.”

“You know my true name. As does Rodney.”

“But the others don’t. You want us to help? Those are, for me, pre-requisites. Are we all agreed?”

Rodney, Chadwick, Tracey and William nodded in assent.

“Very well!” The Arikatoteshika reduced in size and changed his appearance to that of something akin to a grizzly bear.

“Is that your real form?”

“I am trans-dimensional. All I can do is project.”

“Then project honestly.”

Can you imagine a creature the size of a miniature dachshund, with a body shape that suggests a morph between a cat and a spider monkey? That. Oh yes, and covered in a coat of long, sleek, bright yellow fur.

“And your name?” Ruth demanded.

“Norman. My name is Norman. I’m not proud of it, in fact I hate it, but that’s what it is.”

“So when you took over this place,” Hemi said, with a giggle, “it was, like, the Norman conquest.” Unable to control himself, Hemi rolled on the floor, holding his sides and laughing fit to burst.

“See why I hate the name?” Norman asked.

“We are ready to help, Norman,” Rodney said on behalf of the group, “and we will not mention your true form or name outside this chamber. Agreed, people?”

Everyone agreed.

“Now,” Ruth said, “you have our respect, and we want to help you. That wasn’t so hard, was it?”

The small, yellow, hairy creature that was Norman shrugged its shoulders and said, “I suppose not.”

“So,” Rodney said, “what are we dealing with?”

“This system has two stars, one of which is effectively a white dwarf: inert and cool but with a toxic atmosphere. This is the Smoke. Its people enjoy a limited immunity to the worst effects of the gases, except for those that minister to me in my temple. They have to forsake their immunity to gain access to my presence.”

“Why?” Tracey asked.

“Because that’s the way I wanted it.”

Hemi was about to utter the words ‘callous bastard’ but Norman stopped him. “You may very well think that, Chadwick, but you would be wise not to say it out loud.”

Tracey hadn’t finished yet. “In the Village, people call you The Curator—”

“Yeah, and in the Settlement, it’s The Great Black Head,” Billy interrupted.

“Oh!” Tracey said with surprise, “I didn’t know that. But I’ve never heard a name for you in the Temple.”

“The people of the Smoke do not know a name for me. Adds to my air of mystery, don’t you think?”

“I have a name we can use for you in the Temple,” Tracey added.

“And that is?”

“The Ego!” she said dismissively.

“May I continue?” Norman asked, then did anyway, “The system supports two habitable planets which, together with the dead star, are gravity-locked to form a trio that orbits the live star as a single entity. One of the planets, the one that contains the Village, has two moons. These satellites follow regular, but eccentric orbits that result in brief periods when both appear equidistant from the three realms. When that happens, some interesting, but short-lived gravity effects are seen. Routes between the domains are opened as space-time is briefly compressed and gravity-sinks appear. It had been this way for as long as even I can remember. Recently, however, a wobble has appeared in the orbit of one of the moons, possibly caused by coronal activity on the star. This has upset the delicate equilibrium of the five bodies’ journeys around the star, which, in turn, has affected the rotation of the three domains, causing them all to spin faster, giving the impression of time speeding up. The faster rotation of the host planet has resulted in changes in the moons’ orbits, exacerbating the effect.”

“What’s the end-game?” Billy asked.

“The end-game, as you call it, William, is most likely that the wobbling moon will eventually shake so violently that it will disintegrate, and its detritus will destroy all three realms.”

“What can we to do to help?” Ruth asked.

“Pray to me.”

“What?” Hemi asked. “If praying ever worked, and I don’t think it does, it would be pointless now, anyway. You know what everyone needs.”

“But everyone has to want it enough to ask for it.”

“And then you’ll sort it?”

“I can’t. I don’t have that power. That is a job that only the Architect can do.”

“So why haven’t you asked the Architect, then?”

“Do you think I haven’t? He won’t listen to me. He wants to hear your people praying to me, then he’ll know it’s not just me asking for His intervention.”

Rodney, Chadwick, Tracey, William and Ruth’s sentient essence huddled together and started whispering.

“Don’t bother whispering,” Norman said, “I can still hear you. And even if the entire system is thoroughly screwed up, as you are suggesting, I don’t see how it’s my fault.”

“Yeah, whatever,” Hemi scowled.

“Are we all agreed it’s worth a try?” Ruth asked the rest. They all signalled their consent.

“Okay, Norman, send us back. We’ll do it.”

This is now a round-robin between Keith Channing and I.

If you missed a chapter, click to read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6,Part 7, Part 8, Part 9,Part 10, Part 11, Part 12, Part 13, Part 14, Part 15, Part 16,Part 17, Part 18,Part 19,Part 20, Part 21, Part 22, Part 23, Part 24, Part 25, Part 26, Part 27, Part 28, Part 29, Part 30, Part 31, Part 32, Part 33, Part 34, Part 35, Part 36, Part 37

or Jump ahead to Part 39

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